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Amnesia: The Dark Descent

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Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Nathan Grayson)

I played Amnesia: The Dark Descent spiritual/ghooooostual successor SOMA, and it didn’t really do it for me. That said, Frictional creative director Thomas Grip’s plans for the wetter-is-deader stroll into the maw of madness are quite interesting, though whether he can pull it all off remains to be seen. Today we continue on from our previous discussion, pushing doggedly forward into Grip’s plan for possibly the longest build-up (five hours!) in horror gaming history, YouTube culture’s effect on horror, procedurally generated scares and why they both aid and mortally wound true terror, modern horror’s over-reliance on samey settings and tropes, and where Grip sees the genre heading in the future. >

Agree or disagree, the man has some extremely illuminating perspectives, and you can’t fault him for wanting to break away from the played-out influence of his own previous game. It’s all below.>

… [visit site to read more]

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Nathan Grayson)

SOMA didn’t scare the scuba suit off me, but I did find a creeping sort of potential in its soaked-to-the-bone corridors. Amnesia: The Dark Descent 2 this ain’t. Or at least, it’s not aiming to be. Currently, it still feels a lot like a slower-paced, less-monster-packed Amnesia in a different (though still very traditionally survival-horror-y) setting, but Frictional creative director Thomas Grip has big plans. I spoke with him about how he hopes to evolve the game, inevitable comparisons to the Big Daddy of gaming’s small undersea pond, BioShock, why simple monster AI is better than more sophisticated options, the mundanity of death, and how SOMA’s been pretty profoundly influenced by indie mega-hits like Dear Esther and Gone Home.>

… [visit site to read more]

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Nathan Grayson)

It’s not that I feel like SOMA is poorly made. On the contrary: for a demo of a game that’s at least a year out, the Amnesia spiritual successor practically sparkles> beneath its grimy, moss-encrusted shell. I just feel like, despite a very unexpected setting, I’ve been here before. Crept through these halls, turned these nobs, let these tidal waves of otherworldly sound crash into me as I press ever onward, slightly on-edge but no worse for the wear.

… [visit site to read more]

PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Soma hands-on: submurged scares in Frictional’s sci-fi horror">SOMA1

There s a big reveal in Soma that only became big by accident: Frictional Games long-in-the-making horror follow-up to Amnesia is set underwater.

Initially some pockets of people (not us) thought it was set on a spaceship due to the abundance of grimy Giger-influenced corridors, which seemed to imply something Alienesque. Instead, I ve been walking across the ocean floor, following red lights in the dark and cowering at horrendous noises echoing through the waters. At no point was I in outer space.

So your first thought is BioShock, right? Soma s definitely not that. Horror is tonally dominant here, and the parts I played were entirely focused on exploration and puzzle elements. Like Amnesia, then, but with a greater emphasis on poking around. Of the various BioShocks, the second in the series comes closest, given your ability to wander around on the seabed, but the grim art direction of Soma sets it apart.

It s worth explaining at this point that Frictional made me play their game in the dark in the hotel room where the demo was being staged, while they went next door. Part of me hoped they d jump out at me dressed as a fish (they didn t).

What I played of their game is better described as tense, rather than scary. The two sections of the demo were taken from entirely different parts of the game, which was made fairly obvious by the abrupt change in setting. The first was set in an abandoned manufacturing facility, a mostly puzzle-driven area where I had to power-up a switch in a control room to open up a larger chamber. The only background information I d been given on the story was that the protagonist I was playing, Simon, was lost, and trying to work out where he was. OK then. A later task required me to look for a fuse in a maintenance room by moving objects around until I found it a task I initially failed by walking into water with an electrical current.

There was nothing too tricky in the game I played, however, and it was pretty much in line with Amnesia in terms of interface and moving objects around. The setting, however, was impressively detailed. This looks like a big-budget game, its production values no doubt helped by Amnesia s colossal success and Frictional s third iteration of their HPL Engine.

The Giger influence is mostly seen in the organic-looking electronic design, where cables coming out of power generators look more like tentacles protruding from a hive, crawling over the walls. The cable-ends even have little claws that twitch. The murky screenshots Frictional provided don t really show off how successful they ve been in building a sci-fi horror setting with its own visual language.

The underwater sections must have been the biggest challenge in terms of environmental design. When the demo cut to Simon standing on the ocean floor, with limited vision of what lay ahead, Soma started to feel like something new.

The dark green colour palette, the momentary image of sea life hovering overhead, and the vague outline of structures in the distance all made the unknown feel pretty exciting.

It s an environment that enables Frictional to experiment with new ways of scaring you, aided by an ambient soundtrack and the constant noise of Simon s breathing apparatus, pretty much an essential horror device post-Dead Space.

The seabed setting isn t massive, but was still big enough that I managed to get lost. One of my favourite images of the demo was the giant sunken submarine I found embedded on the ocean floor, signifying that I d reached the edge of the map. If I hadn t foolishly ignored the flashing red lights that show you where to go, I would ve missed this admirably lavish detail.

Following the red lights in the right direction next time, I encountered two abandoned underwater structures along the way. I also heard a couple of horrendous screams, about 30 seconds apart another of Soma s subtle indicators you re heading in the right direction.

My last task in the demo was to find a cutting tool, in order to slice through the thick cable wrapped around a metal door and impeding my progress. Searching for this device took me through a lot of samey-looking corridors until I eventually found it in a small office. The inventory is contextual, so the cutter only appeared in front of me when I returned to the metal door to cut through the blockage.

In the last few seconds of the demo, a robotic creature shrieked and made a run at me. With only this encounter to go on, and the one before that where the creature killed me, it s too soon to say how dealing with enemies will work in Soma.

We re still a year out from release, but during my hour with the demo, I felt that this chunk of Soma was already better paced than Amnesia. Its puzzles were taxing without being too obtrusive. I think this is the optimum structure for Frictional, leaning more towards exploration and discovery. I hope that the sequence I played isn t the only time we re allowed underwater either, since this was by far the most interesting part of what I played.

Soma s voice-acting risks undermining its atmosphere. Throughout the demo, audiotapes activated by clicking on dead bodies and other scenery filled-in the story, but they were overcooked, let down by recordings that I m hoping are temporary or unfinished. Soma was far more effective when it let me piece together its story without people talking over it. While the audiovisual design is so credible, the cast drag this into B-movie territory.

This first look at Soma demonstrates how Frictional s world-building has escalated since Amnesia. I m intrigued to explore the other corners of this new environment, and spend some time in the company of its enemies to see how the developers are handling that side of the game. As far as subject matter goes, Soma is a strong move for Frictional, and one that could help them innovate the way they present horror.
Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Nathan Grayson)

SOMA-uch? No, that doesn't work at all

Everyone knows that the scariest things aren’t actually monsters themselves. It’s the horrors lurking in our own runaway imaginations, creatures of such impossible (and impossibly specific) phobia that our only recourse is to head for the hills long before we ever see them. That’s the power of a great horror environment. SOMA‘s Upsilon research facility, for instance, creaks, groans, and whines quietly to itself like a child who’s afraid of the dark. From there, your mind does the heavy lifting. Watch below, and then read about Amnesia: The Dark Descent developer Frictional’s core design pillars for its sci-fi madhouse.


Shacknews - Alice O'Connor
Our first peek at Frictional's Soma was more a hypothetical, showing off a carefully crafted snippet intended to capture the general dreadful feel of the game than any specific piece. A new trailer from the Amnesia creator's latest, however, gives a tour of some actual in-game environment, and yes, they are still terrible.
Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Robert Yang)

Level With Me is a series of interviews with game developers about their games, work process, and design philosophy. At the end of each interview, they design part of a small first person game. You can play this game at the very end of the series.

Thomas Grip is creative director of Frictional Games, based in Helsingborg, Sweden. They’re known mostly for the Penumbra (a first person horror game series) and Amnesia (another first person horror game series), and they’re currently working on another first person horror game called SOMA (a first person horror game). Astute readers may sense a pattern. (more…)

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Nathan Grayson)

It was not so long ago that our own Adam “Murder Maestro” Smith lamented the lack of imagination in horror stories. Implausibly trap-laden asylums, spoooooky forests, and hastily cobbled-together castles dominate, while more interesting locales and subject matters are few and far-between. While I wouldn’t go so far as to say that horror’s stuck in a full-blown rut, it could certainly end up there if it keeps wandering down the same predictable trail. I’ve been thinking about it, though (largely while replaying Amnesia: The Dark Descent as Halloween nightmare fuel), and I’ve come to realize that there are some amazing avenues ahead for stomach-lurching scares in gaming. Problem is, there are a few major, perhaps even primeval forces that could slip a dangling noose around possibility’s all-too-exposed neck.>


PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Gone Home started as an Amnesia mod, and you can try it">gonehomeamnesia

Amnesia: The Dark Descent developer Frictional Games recently revealed that The Fullbright Company’s indie title, Gone Home, first saw life through the Amnesia engine. And if you're interested in the prototype, you can try it right now.

Frictional Games co-founder Thomas Grip notes in a company blog post that he denies all requests to use the HPL2 engine in a commercial game, as there’s no documentation for the engine and Frictional Games simply doesn’t have the time to support the engine. Instead, Grip would suggest using Unity or UDK (Unreal Development Kit). Steve Gaynor, who helped craft the haunting tale that is Gone Home, asked Grip whether his team could use the engine for what would become Gone Home, but received the same answer.

Fullbright ended up following Grip’s advice and used Unity to shape Gone Home—but not before building the first prototype with the HPL2 engine anyway. After all, Grip only denied requests to license the engine for commercial products.

Grip and Gaynor reconnected after Gone Home’s launch, with Grip asking if Gaynor still had the “Amnesia version” of Gone Home tucked away in his computer. Gaynor just so happened to have a copy, and now that copy is available to you.

Grip said Gaynor requested the HPL2 license way back in January of last year, and speculates that the Fullbright Company must have been utilizing the HPL2 engine before asking Grip if the final version of Gone Home could use that license. Basically, this means the Amnesia prototype is a very early version of what Gone Home would eventually become.

To navigate Gone Home’s earliest, creakiest walls, just download the prototype and extract the file into Amnesia: The Dark Descent’s “custom_stories” directory. If you see something called “Test Game” after selecting “Custom Stories” on Amnesia’s main menu, you’re good to go. At least the Gone Home prototype doesn’t have invincible flesh monsters roaming the halls…right?
PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to SOMA trailer shows first game footage, Frictional’s sci-fi horror due 2015">SOMA

After two freaky live action trailers, Frictional have finally unveiled the first in-game footage from their upcoming sci-fi horror SOMA. Judging from the trailer, it looks a bit 'Amnesia in space', and you'll play as a man who thinks it is a good idea to jam a weird metal device into the decapitated head of a corpse. Based purely on that performance, I'm not confident in his long term chance for survival.

Beyond that small sampler, details are few, although the game's website does reveal some basic info as to what's going on:

"The radio has gone silent on PATHOS-2. As isolation bears down on the staff of the remote research facility, strange things are happening.

"Machines are taking on human traits and alien constructions have started to interfere with routine. The world around them is turning into a nightmare.

"The only way out is to do something unimaginable."

Don't expect to find out much more for a while. SOMA is due out on PC and PS4, just not until 2015.


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